Protesters rally outside the DeKalb County Jail on Wednesday, May 31, 2023.

Protesters rally outside the DeKalb County Jail on Wednesday, May 31, 2023.

Credit: Peter Biello

A crowd gathered at the DeKalb County Jail on Wednesday evening to protest the arrest of three administrators of the Atlanta Solidarity Fund.

Police on Wednesday arrested three key Atlanta organizers who have been aiding protesters against the city's proposed police and fire training center, striking at the structure that supports the fight against what opponents derisively call "Cop City," the Associated Press reported.

“The charges are false charges; charges which are based on the criminalization of a movement against Cop City,” Kamau Franklin, an activist with the group Community Movement Builders, said at the protest.

The GBI, along with the Atlanta Police Department, arrested Marlon Scott Kautz, age 39, of Atlanta, Savannah D. Patterson, age 30, of Savannah, Ga., and Adele Maclean, age 42, of Atlanta, on charges "stemming from the ongoing investigation of individuals responsible for numerous criminal acts at the future site of the Atlanta Public Safety Training Center and other metro Atlanta locations," the GBI said in a statement Wednesday.

Agents and officers executed a search warrant and found evidence linking the three suspects to the financial crimes. All three charged will be booked into a local jail and will have a bond hearing scheduled soon.

This case is being jointly prosecuted by the Georgia Attorney General’s Office and the DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office.

“The fact that this bail fund has bailed people out time and time again for the last seven years, but only now when it has bailed out folks who have been involved in the Cop City protests has the state and the city and the county decided to jump on these people and criminalize these people,” Franklin said.

Alex Joseph, an attorney, spoke at Wednesday’s protest. She said these arrests are unprecedented, but at this point we don’t know much about what really happened. 

“We have very little evidence, and the evidence seems to point to perhaps sloppy bookkeeping, but honestly, paying for organizational overhead,” Joseph said. "I don’t see a crime. I don’t even see any smoking guns."

Gov. Brian Kemp said Wednesday the fundraisers are part of a criminal operation. Individuals with no affiliation and various groups are protesting the training center, but the groups are decentralized with no leader or unified approach to protesting.

On May 24, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued a bulletin of terrorism-related threats to the country, including the following statement involving the proposed Atlanta police training facility: "Since spring of 2022, alleged DVEs (domestic violent extremists) in Georgia have cited anarchist violent extremism, animal rights/environmental violent extremism, and anti-law enforcement sentiment to justify criminal activity in opposition to a planned public safety training facility in Atlanta. Criminal acts have included an alleged shooting and assaults targeting law enforcement and property damage targeting the facility, construction companies, and financial institutions for their perceived involvement with the planned facility."

The arrest warrants for Kautz, Patterson and Maclean said that the Defend the Atlanta Forest group was classified by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as DVEs, but the DHS bulletin doesn’t mention Defend the Atlanta Forest by name.

Atlanta City Council Member Liliana Bakhtiari, who has been critical of the lack of transparency surrounding this project, told GPB on a Zoom call that the arrests are political.

“Given that both the AG and the governor had statements ready to go the moment the arrest was conducted, it would appear political to me,” she said.

The Atlanta Police Department declined GPB's interview request and referred questions to the GBI, which declined to offer new information.

Meanwhile, the Atlanta City Council is getting ready to vote on funding for the planned public safety training center at its next meeting on Monday, June 5. 

Tags: Cop City  Atlanta  Georgia